Queer Indie Appalachian Folk Duo Tina & Her Pony are playing a show for the Q Center Concert Series on Sunday, May 12th in Portland and I caught up with them this week for QBlog. We talked about queer music, the LGBTQ community, the burdens of being compared, and more!
Read my interview with them below and get excited for the show! It’s gonna be seriously AWESOME.
Logan Lynn: Thanks for chatting with me today, you two! We are all looking forward to your show at Q Center in a few weeks. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves and your music?
Tina & Her Pony: Thanks for inviting us to come play! We are Tina & Her Pony, Tina Collins and Quetzal Jordan. We call our music “Indie Appalachain Folk”. Quetzal’s main instrument is cello, and we both play guitar, tenor banjo, and tenor ukulele. We both sing and we both write the songs. There is a lot of harmony, but we also love dissonance. Without using the term “easy listening”, we like to think our music is easy on the ears, ambient, beautiful folk.
Logan Lynn: Ain’t no shame in the easy listening game if your songs are good, which yours are! Where did the name “Tina & Her Pony” come from?
T&HP: It’s an age old question, really. (Smiles) We started out as “Tina Collins & Quetzal Jordan”. People couldn’t pronounce or remember the name Quetzal. They thought her name was pretzel. We needed a new name, pronto. Quetzal closed her eyes, thought of our music and the feeling it gives her- she ended up in a field with a gentle breeze blowing through wild ponies’ hair. bam! instant new name. Tina & Her Pony. I was resistant at first, but told her “if you want to change your stage name to “Her Pony”, I can’t stop you. My name is still Tina.” We tried it out, and people LOVED it! They started asking us about the pony non-stop, and we realized, even if we wanted to change our name now, we couldn’t. “Tina & Her Pony” was here to stay. Sometimes that answer gets a little tiresome, so when people ask about the pony, Quetzal tells audiences that she’s always felt like a pony inside and that hopefully one day she’ll be able to afford the surgery, but it’s really expensive.
Logan Lynn: I love that story! Is this your first tour or are you road veterans?
T&HP: Quetzal and I met and formed Tina & Her Pony on the road. I released a solo album under the name Tina Collins called “Journey Onward” in November 2009 and proceeded to tour it with my band at the time, Over Under Yonder, which consisted of Quetzal’s sister, and her sister’s wife. We spontaneously invited Quetzal to tour with us, and we realized we really had a musical dynamic between the two of us that was worth pursuing. So Over Under Yonder dissolved at the end of that tour, and Tina & Her Pony was born. During the process of making our debut album, we did some regional tours around New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. We tried to stick close to home though, so we could focus our energy on making a quality album.
Logan Lynn: That all sounds really organic, which is my favorite way for things to happen. How long have you been a duo, then?
T&HP: Since March 2010, so a little over 3 years. We were lucky to find two other wonderfully talented band mates with whom we played for approximately nine months, but only in Taos. They are both very rooted there, so Quetzal and I have always toured as a duo.
Logan Lynn: The music industry is notorious for needing to put people into categorical check boxes and comps. Who would you say Tina & Her Pony get compared to the most?
T&HP: We get compared to all kinds of people- most common are Gillian Welch and The Be Good Tanyas.
Logan Lynn: Is there anyone you wish people would compare you to more?
T&HP: We wish that people would just tell us specifically what moved them about hearing our music, as opposed to comparing us to someone they’ve already heard. Because usually there isn’t actually very much of a tangible connection between comparisons. People tell us we sound like Alison Krauss, The Dixie Chicks and the Indigo Girls. And all we can think is, “oh, you don’t really listen to folk/americana at all do you? And all you can compare us to are really mainstream country/folk acts”. We’re not quite offended, but just because we are female bodied people singing harmony does not mean we sound like the Indigo Girls. None of those bands include cello or ukulele and our music is not pop music.
Logan Lynn: That seems like a perfectly reasonable wish! Speaking of wishes, a portion of the proceeds from your Portland show benefit the Programs and Services of Q Center. What moved you to go this route?
T&HP: Thank goodness for queer organizations providing support and raising awareness. It seems like gender and sexuality oppression is the last frontier, as far as social justice movements go. Without these kinds of organizations, the change would happen so much slower. Not only is it comforting, inspiring and empowering to experience the kind of solidarity that comes from knowing that queer organizations/events exist, it is also so fun!
Logan Lynn: Yes! Three cheers for community! Do you feel like your music is political?
T&HP: I don’t consider our music particularly political, but then again, I don’t necessarily consider my queer identity as “alternative” or “other”. It just is what it is. And so is our music- which is a reflection of who we are as people. We love women, and we are not afraid to sing about it and we are not afraid of marginalizing ourselves by doing that. We feel proud to do that, and like it’s doing good work for the queer community, because we hope that by singing our stories, and hopefully convincing the crowd to fall in love with us, that we are humanizing queer people. We are finding that our music has a wide appeal to all kinds of people, but queer people in particular seem to take to it, and I think it’s because we are always changing the pronouns in songs to our liking and throwing in lines about shaving our beards, etc. In certain towns on tour, it does take some bravery and pushing through discomfort to be who we are and sing our songs. We purposely put the word “queer” in our biography that we send to venues and press, so that we know that they’ve at least seen that. It’s a way a weeding out super uncomfortable homophobic scenarios in our touring. In gender politics, the lines quickly blur between personal, political, and artistic expression. When you’re a member of a group that’s marginalized, it’s hard to find your own voice, and harder still to use it. The risk is greater, which makes the act more necessary.
Logan Lynn: I hear that! Thank you for doing your part for our movement! If you could collaborate with anyone on a record who would it be?
T&HP: Edgar Meyer, because we think he is basically god. He plays double bass, and we always dream of having more low end, lower than the cello. And fretless instruments are ideal, because they can blend in a way that fretted instruments can’t. A lot of our love for Edgar Meyer’s playing comes from thinking so highly of the cello. We saw him perform once at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. He played Bach’s cello suites on the double bass (practically an impossible feat). Our jaws dropped and we’ve been worshipping the church of Edgar Meyer ever since.
Logan Lynn: (Laughs) Nice. What can we expect from the show on May 12th? Any special instructions for ticket buyers?
T&HP: You can expect us to be really excited, because it will be our first time ever in Portland. And our first time at an LGBTQ community center. We have played Gay Prides before, but that’s not the same.
Logan Lynn: Hooray! We love being first. Any final words for our readers before we go?
T&HP: We can’t wait to see you and play for you at Q Center! Thanks for supporting queer indie music!
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